Understanding Contracts & Contract Review

A contract is the document by which a sponsor imposes terms and conditions on its award of funds to a college or program. Generally, it specifies the work the sponsor expects the principal investigator (PI) to perform in exchange for the award, the deliverables or reports the sponsor requires the PI to submit after receiving the award, and how funds are to be spent. The contract may also identify who owns any intellectual property that may result from the award or whether the PI must obtain the sponsor’s approval to publish the results of the work.

Ordinarily, the contract is prepared by the sponsor, but regardless of preparer, all contracts providing funding to be administered require RFCUNY review as they create legal obligations. 

Initiating Review of a Contract

A PI initiates the proposed contract by sending it to the PI's campus Grants Office for preliminary review and college approval. The PI should include, with the proposed contract, the fully completed Contract Intake Form. The Contract Intake Form serves as a checklist for the PI to provide necessary contact and account information and to complete all necessary prerequisites (such as review any possible conflicts of interest as well as obtaining approval of human subject or animal subject research), and allows the college’s grants officer on behalf of the college to commit to the terms of the contract, needed before RFCUNY can sign the contract on the college’s behalf. After the college Grants Office completes their preliminary review they will submit the Contract Intake Form and proposed contract to the Office of Legal Affairs for final review.

If the terms of the contract do not provide the college with sufficient protections, or the contract contains terms with which RFCUNY cannot comply, the reviewer will negotiate with the sponsor to make changes to the contract prior to signature by the Research Foundation. Sponsors can be reluctant to make major or material changes in the conditions under which they have offered to award funding, but the Office of Legal Affairs makes every effort to protect CUNY’s and the PI’s interests and to achieve desired changes before the award is made.

Once the contract has been signed by RFCUNY on behalf of the college, it is returned to the sponsor for the sponsor’s signature (if the sponsor has not already signed it). A copy of the fully-executed contract is scanned for electronic storage and assigned an account number if it does not already have one. The project administrator assigned to a PI will then establish the account to fund the PI’s project.

Essential Forms

Contract & Agreement Forms

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